Northern California authorities caution of offenders taking advantage of the situation, including one in which officials appear to have murdered a firefighter.
Police detained five people on Saturday morning on suspicion of robbery, grand theft, burglary, and fraud after being caught driving away from the Creek Drive neighborhood in fall, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office reported.
The perpetrators allegedly gained from the fire at the CZU Lightning Complex that pushed around 77,000 people from their homes in the counties of Santa Cruz and San Mateo.
Someone even broke into a firefighting commander’s department car while he was out fighting the wildfire, grabbing his cash, and exhausting his bank account, Mark Brunton, director of operations at Cal Fire, said at a Sunday conference.
“It is saddening, it is sickening,” Brunton said, “and we do everything we will undertake to help the community, and unfortunately these [things] happen.”
In the meantime, authorities urged residents to remain out of evacuation areas to prevent threats, including fallen trees and cables, and to keep access to emergency vehicles.
Tourists are also warned away. The Santa Cruz County Emergency Operations Center said it had been requesting that visitors refrain from traveling there through Sept. 1 to remain overnight accommodations available for evacuees.